Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Category: Biographies

Hemingway is a Dude. Examples.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

“The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and the good work and all that came out of it is not part of this book. I wrote it and left it out.”

“I held my hand against the silky weight and bluntness against her neck and said something secret and she said, “Afterwards.”
“You,” I said. “You.”

“This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist.”

Portrait of the Artist

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl, Wendy Jones

I picked this up from a gallery on saturday after I went to see a Grayson Perry exhibition. I did hear him speak last year at a publishing day I went to  for work, but it was the first time I’d seen any if his pots in real life. There was a real quintessential british element to them – eccentric, a bit sleazy and a mash of culture.

This book is a very sound covering of the artist’s childhood and life leading up to his emergence as an up and coming ceramic artist. The book is written exactly as you would think Perry would speak it – at times hilarious, at times a bit tragic, and a lot of the time involving his demi god teddy bear Alan Measles. There is a lot to Grayson Perry, so much of it being incredibly interesting, that this is well worth a read.

The Hare With Amber Eyes

The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal

This book is so good. Edmund de Waal inherits a collection of 264 japanese netsuke from his great uncle in Tokyo. They have been in his family since they were bought in Paris in the 1870s. Since then they have been handed from one family member to another, and have travelled from Paris to Vienna to England to Tokyo.

Edmund de Waal comes from the Ephrussi family, very European, with an amazing history. The story begins with Charles Ephrussi, the original collector of the netsuke. Charles is one of the two men who were the model for Proust’s master creation: Charles Swann. And this is just the beginning.

Joyfully, de Waal is a wonderful story teller, and gives such a personal tinge to these objects. As he travels around Europe and back through history, he uncovers some difficult and sad moments (a jewish family in Vienna during the second world war speaks for itself). This intelligently emotive history becomes a broader exploration of what it means to collect things and pass them on. Do objects hold a memory of where they’ve been and what has happened to the people who held them?

To All Collectors

Even when one is no longer attached to things, it’s still something to have been attached to them; because it was always for reasons which other people didn’t grasp… Well, now that I’m a little too weary to live with other people, these old feelings, so personal and individual, that I had in the past, seem to me – it’s the mania of all collectors – very precious. I open my heart to myself like a sort of vitrine, and examine one by one all those love affairs of which the world can know nothing. And of this collection to which I’m now much more attached than to my others, I say to myself, rather as Mazarin said of his books, but in fact without the least distress, that it will be very tiresome to have to leave it all.
Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Cities of the Plain) via The Hare with Amber Eyes

Love and Louis XIV

Love and Louis XIV, Antonia Fraser

You speak of throwing off a passion as if it was as easy as changing a chemise.” – Angélique de Fontages to Françoise de Maintenon, 1680.

I don’t read a lot of non fiction so this was a nice change of pace. This biography of Louis XIV – the sun king, the one who created Versailles – is told with particular reference to the women in his life. His mother, his nannies, his wives, his mistresses, his daughters… Antonia Fraser is very easy to read but MAN did I get a lot of these people mixed up – theres a lot of the same names going on here. This was also an interesting read to get snippets of court etiquette; most definitely another world.

Photo reblogged from here.

Paris Reading

With two months to go until the big trip I’ve started on my parisian reading list:

  • Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser
  • Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France by Evelyne Lever
  • Parisians by Graham Robb
  • Versailles: A Biography of a Palace by Tony Spawforth

Wild Swans

Wild Swans, Jung Chang

This biography is so eye opening. Jung Chang uses traces her family history back through her own lifetime, her mother and her grandmother in order to comment on the larger history of China from 1900 up until 1980s. Her grandmother had her feet bound according to tradition and was ‘married’ off to a warlord as a concubine. Her mother and father were communist officials under Mao’s initial reign, although later fell out of favour during the cultural revolution. Prior to this book, I knew nothing of China’s history and had absolutely no idea it was so brutal. It is written with honesty and is so personal it really draws you in. Banned in China, it is a bestseller in other countries, and Jung Chang has also written a biography of Mao.